Mary Todd Lincoln
Hospital Visits as First Lady
Excerpts from newspapers and other sources
From the files of the
Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection
MBS, LINCOLN IN TEE HOSPITALS.
To the Editor qf the ChicoQo Journal :
Chicago, July 18.— The death of the widow
of the Amerloan emancipator will cause a f eellnjf
of sorrow and sadness all oyer the country, but it
will be a cause of particular sorrow to the soldiers
of the Army of the Potomac, who, when sick or
wounded in the Wasbln^^ton hoapitals. were the
objects of her especial care and attention. At the
first battle of FrederioltsburK I received a painful
wound in the face; the bullet ' splintered the
jaw and knocked out half a dozen teeth. I
was taken to the Armory-Square Hospital,
at Washln/?ton, and Dr. Bliss, who attended Gen.
Garneld. was the man who sayed my face from
Utter dlsflicuroment Amonsr the ifiany who came
to the hospital to speak coeeriof: words to the
afflicted none were moro kind ur '»how«d a nobler
spirit than the wife of ths chief ma^trate of the
Nation. She called regularlr* brin^clntr with her,
by attendants, flowers and deiicadea, and bestow-
InfT thorn with her own band. with ja rraca worthy of
the station she held. The oyde oT time 1« ended
with her. . She iif at rest with he? soirQW^ but
, though dead she still liyee in the meinonr of tboee
whose afiDzUea she soothfid.with .lOTlnir words. ■•.
Bulletin of the Lincoln National Ldfe Foundation - " Dr. Louis A. Warren, Editor
Published each week by The Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Number 683 FORT WAYNE, INDIANA May 11, 1942
MRS. LINCOLN AND "YOUR SOLDIER BOY
In the little personal notes that passed between
Abraham Lincoln and his wife during the White House
days, he often addressed her as "mother." It is to be
regretted that she has not been allowed to occupy this
reverent role in the thinking of the American people,
but possibly in the atmosphere of "Mother's Day" her
most ardent critics will not begrudge her this brief
There seems to have been few attempts to gather and
emphasize some of the commendable things that Mary
Lincoln did, and it was refreshing, indeed, to come
across a brief personal reminiscence of her by Howard
Glyndon appearing in The Independent for August 10,
1882. He writes:
"She was very generous to the sick soldiers in camp
and in the hospitals around Washington. I remember
many of her voluntary and unsolicited deeds of kindness,
and she visited the camps and hospitals frequently.
These were not the things which it suited the conven-
ience of her defamers to have a cognizance of, or to
allow to go on record. I am ashamed that today nothing
of Mary Lincoln's goodness of heart in this respect nor
the sums of money spent by her and by Mr. Lincoln for
the sick and suffering during the war is remembered or
A more important reference to Mrs. Lincohi's motherly
attitude toward the soldiers is told in a story released
in the Chicago Times Herald in June 1897. A reporter
interviewed James H. Agen, a Civil War soldier, and
learned that he had in his possession a valuable letter
written to his mother. Upon being questioned for more
detail about the letter Mr. Agen told the following story :
"Let me tell you a story before answering your double
question : In 1864, while following Grant near Riclimond,
and when we had come so close to it that they could
hear our muskets, and we their church bells, I was stricken
with a fever and sent to hospital. In time they landed
me, more dead than alive, in one of the great hospitals
at Washington. I was a very sick boy. Boy is right, for
that -was all I was — sweet 16, as a girl of that age v>-ould
be. For three Aveeks I had no ambition to live.
"One day, after I had passed the danger point, and
was taking a little notice of what was going on, a number
of ladies came through the hospital. They had baskets
containing delicacies and bouquets of beautiful flowers.
One of them stopped at each cot as they passed along. A
bunch of blossoms was handed to each sick or wounded
soldier, and if he desired it a delicacy of some kind was
also distributed. Every now and then one of the women
sat in a camp chair and wrote a letter for the poor fellow
who hadn't the strength to write himself.
"I wanted nothing to eat or drink, but those pretty
posies held my attention. One of the ladies stopped at
my cot. I hadn't yet got my full growth, and in my
then emaciated, pale condition I must have looked like
a child. She seemed surprised as she looked at me.
" 'You poor child, what brought you here?'
" 'They sent me here from the Army of the Potomac'
" 'But you are not a soldier?'
" 'Yes, madam. I belong to a New York regiment. The
surgeon here has the record.'
" 'Can I do anything for you? Can you eat something
or take a swallow of wine?'
" 'I'm not hungry or thirsty.'
" 'Can I write a letter for you?'
" 'Not to-day. I'm too weak.'
" 'Then I will leave some of these flowers v/ith you.
President Lincoln helped to cull them. I will come again
in two or three days. Keep up your courage. You are
going to get well. You must get well.'
"She was the first woman who had spoken to me since
I had reached the army. Looking at the sweet flowers
which Mr. Lincoln had 'helped to cull,' and thinking of
the dear woman who had spoken so kindly and hopefully
had m.ore effect in brightening my spirits than all else
that had occurred in the hospital.
"Three days later the same lady came again, and
direct to my cot.
" 'How is my little soldier boy to-day?' she asked in a
way so motherly that it reminded me of my good mother
back in New York, the patriot mother who had given
her consent to my going to the war after praying over
the matter many times. The hospital angel — that
was what we learned to call those noble v\'omen — after
giving me a taste of chicken and jelly, asked me if I had
a mother. She saw by the tears in my eyes that I had.
" 'Now we will write mother a letter.'
"Then she sat by my side and v;rote the letter. I hadn't
been able to write for a month.
" 'I have told your mother that I am near her soldier
boy and have talked with him. What shall I tell her for
you? That you are still too weak to write yourself?'
" 'Please don't tell her that. It will make her worry.
Tell her I am fast getting well.'
"The first day I got home my mother aslced me how I
liked Mrs. Lincoln, the President's wife.
" 'I never met Mrs. Lincoln. What made you think
"Then she took from a box closely guarded in an old
bureau a letter. It read like this:
" 'Dear Mrs. Agen : I am sitting by the side of your sol-
dier boy. He has been quite sick, but is getting well. He
tells me to say to you that he is all right. With respect
for the mother of the young soldier.
" 'Mrs. Abraham Lincoln.'
"That was the first that I knew that it was the Presi-
dent's wife who had made me those two visits. I begged
my mother to give me the letter. 'You can have it when
I am gone.' When she died, a box and an old letter folded
in a silk handkerchief were among her gifts to me.
"The box, kerchief and letter will pass along the Agen
line as mementos too sacied for everyday display."
statement appears in Lincoln Lore, Number 1579, Sep-
tember, 1969, Lincoln's Law Offices In The Tinsley
Building- 1843-1852: "When one attempts to define the
precise location of the Lincoln-Herndon law office during
the entire period of the firm's existence, there is some
confusion. This is due to the fact that several . . . issues
of the Illinois State Journal are missing which would
have shown a change, if they had moved, in their busi-
Even the Micro Photo Division of Bell & Howell, who
have micro film of the Illinois State Journal from June
16, 1848, to December 30, 1865, (35 reels) available for
sale, advises its prospective customers that missing
from the files are the numbers from September 14, 1843,
through December and June 20-30, 1855, and July 1-9, of
the same year.
Editor's Note: For a more complete description of the files of the
Illinois State Journal, consult the publication titled. "Newspapers in
the Illinois State Historical Library," edited by Vi^illiam E. Keller,
reprinted from Illinois Libraries, June, 1970, by the Illinois State
Historical Library, page 543.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S SEAL
(A Good Investment)
On October 25, 1967, Abraham Lincoln's Official Seal
of the United States sold for $12,000. It was a part of
the Justin G. Turner collection sold at the Charles Ham-
ilton Auction (see catalogue No. 22) at the Waldorf
Astoria. The seal was used by Lincoln while president.
The item is described as follows: "the seal %" in
diameter and inscribed in brass, mounted on a carved
ivory handle (age yellowed and with a few tiny cracks),
bearing a circular design on its top. The overall height
is about 31/4". Contained in a special folding case made
by Atmore Beach of brown morocco with inner linings
of beige moire silk, gilt stamped on spine, 'Abraham
Lincoln's Presidential Seal,' and on front cover, 'Justin
G. Turner Collection.' " The pre-sale estimated value of
the relic was $2,000.
The seal had previously been sold by the Parke-Bernet
Galleries, Inc. on February 19-20, 1952, at the time of
the disposition of the collection of the late Oliver R.
Two different views of Lincoln's official seal which, if price
Barrett, of Chicago, Illinois. The item listed as Number
284 on page 122 of the sale catalogue gives the following
description: "Seal of the United States used by Abraham
Lincoln while President, ivory handle with brass seal.
Height 31/4 inches. With card inscribed: 'Seal used by
Abraham Lincoln when President. W. H. Crook'. Accom-
panying is a printed invitation of Mr and Mrs Abraham
Lincoln to 'Mrs. Goddard' in an envelope, with a wax
impression of the above seal. The envelope is defective.
Illustrated in Sandburg, Lincoln Collector, facing p. 145."
The Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc. did not estimate the
value of the various items offered for sale, which appears
to be no longer the practice of most auction houses. The
seal sold for $650.
Thus the purchaser of the relic at the Barrett sale
realized a 1746% gain on his investment. Perhans the
same can be said of the estate of the late Anna Thomp-
son Dodge, who sold through Christie's on June 24,
1971, a French 18th century writing table for $415,800.
Mrs. Lincoln Among The Sick And Wounded
Among the many ladies who visit our sick soldiers
with cheerful words and offices, none are more inde-
fatigable than Mrs. Lincoln. She, yesterday, visited the
Odd Fellows Hall Hospital, Navy Yard, much to the
gratification of the sufferers there, and kindly admin-
istered to their wants in various ways — bestowing
gifts, kind words and, among others, Mrs. Lincoln
visited the bedside of one old soldier, over sixty years of
age, who had expressed a desire to see her. After some
conversation, she bestowed upon the old soldier a hand-
some donation. Her visit will long be remembered by
August 29, 1862
Note: On Au.crust 12, 1862, Mrs. Lincoln received from a Boston
merchant a donation of .$1,000 for relief work in military hospitals.
On August 16. 1862, a request was made of Hiram Barney to buy
$200 worth of lemons and $100 worth of oranfres for Mrs. Lincoln to
distribute to hospitals. Lincoln Day By Day - A Chronology 1809-1865,
Volume III: 1861-1865, pases 138-134.
From the Lincoln National Life, Foundation
an index, must be one of the most valuable Lincoln relics in
The pictures are arranged chronologically around
Homer's works engraved for "Harper's Weekly,"
the leading illustrated review of that time. A brief
apprenticeship with a Boston lithographer and a
few art lessons in New York Cit>- had been the
extent of his formal art training, butatage 21 hewas
already being published by "Harper's" as well as
other pictorial media. He covered Lincoln's
inauguration for the magazine and when hostilities
between the North and South broke out, he was sent
to the front as its "special artist."
During the ne.xt four years the battleground
became both his school and his studio. At first he
thrilled to the drama and heroism of battle, depict-
ing what he saw with remarkable realism, butas the
v\'ar dragged on, he recoiled from the scenes of
death and turned to life among the men in camp,
with its moments of humor, camaraderie and
Homer's art brought the look and feel of the war
home to his countr>-men. Although he accompanied
the Union Army and presented the war from the
Northern viewpoint, he fully saw the tragedy in civil
warfare and honestly portrayed both victor and
vanquished with the same compassion and dignity-.
The 198 reproductions of Winslow Homer's Civil
War art show his extraordinar>- skill with pencil,
brush and engraving tools. The oil, "Pitching Horse-
shoes," showing Zouaves at play in camp, is Homer
at his best in technique and coloring. His pencil
sketches of men in motion are particularly realistic
and one can almost feel the anxiety and tenseness
that must have been the lot of ever\- soldier.
This is a superb book, capably edited, and it is a
fine addition to Ci^■i] War bibliography.
Fort Wa\-ne Journal Gazette
January 5, 1975
An Eyewitness Account o
Mrs. Lincoln To Campbell
On many occasions President
Abraham Lincoln and Mrs. Lincoln
visited the sick and wounded soldiers in
Washington, D.C. hospitals. One such
visit was to the Campbell Hospital in the
capitolcity. The date was May 29, 1864. It
was Dr. Darius Orton, a Federal Army
surgeon in charge of one of theCampbell
Hospital wards, who recorded the events
of the presidential visit in his personal
journal. Even though this visit is not
mentioned in Lincoln Day By Day - A
Chronology, Vol. Ill, 1861-1864, the hand
written record of Dr. Orton (pages 68-69)
leaves no doubt as to the accuracy of the
While a hospital visit is of no great
historical significance, all eye-witness
accounts of Lincoln's activities during his
presidency are of importance to students.
The medical journal of Dr. Orton has
recently been acquired by Norm
Flayderman of New Milford, Connecti-
cut, who has kindly given permission to
the editors of the Lincoln Herald to
publish the information on those pages
relative to the Lincolns.
With considerable difficulty, the
facsimile pages of the journal have been
EDrroR's .Note: The editor is indebted to Donald C.
Chambers, M.D. of the Medical Department of the
Lincoln .National Life Insurance Company for his
help in transcribing the manuscript.
f a Visit By President and
Hospital, Washington, D.C.
transcribed with some omissions,
particularly those words relative to
George L. Chase, Pr. Co D . 36th Mass. \'ols. Regt.
•Admitted .May 27, 1864. Description of wound -
Gunshot woundof RightKnee- received in action
at Wilderness, May 6, 1864. Operation per-
formed May 29th in Campbell Hospital - By Dr.
Sheldon Surg, in charge - When this patient was
admitted he sho\\'ed every symptom of recovers'
- the knee joint was not opened - and it was not
until several days had passed that erv sipilas set in
and inflamed the joint to such a degree that
amputation was certainly indicated - The
amputation was performed - and 1 had just
brought him in from the operating room - when
Mr. and .Mrs. Lincoln came through the Hospital.
They came into my ward just as he was recover-
ing from the effects of the anesthetic when she
came along where he lay - she took him by the
hand and the Dr. toldhun that it was Mrs. Lincoln
- he cried out how do > ou do Mrs. Lincoln - Oh! I
am so glad to see >-ou - she petted the poor boy a
few moments - gave him a bouquet of flowers -
Uncle Abe took him b>- the hand - bid him good
b\ e and left - he ne% er rallied from the shock - or
at least only partialK-. The Knee when amputated
was ver>' badly swollen - painful. None of us had
much hope for a recovers . The treatment was
good diet . . . Iron . . . and plenty of good Beef
ele.xir. Sodium was painted on the limb but to no
usehesank gradualK- and died from Pyemia, June
I made a post mortem Examination after death
and found large absesses in various parts of the
body and also the sup (superior) lobe of the Left
Lung filled with Tubercule in the 2 degree of
softening - the other organs were normal.
" ' nAL
■ gRf'NNm WAS /kJ
The Ci'JfL ^A/^ -Wfl^
^^i^-S 4 MONTHS r
Of P'jN9ft Ai.y,